The New Arab Cinema

HABIBI (Susan Youssef, Palestine)

With the Middle East so much in the news, and two long wars dragging the United States and its partners into imprecise waters that have as much to do with cultural conflicts as military ones, it becomes achingly clear that most of us really do not understand much of the Arab cultures with whom we are now engaged. Since most of what we know is filtered through media coverage that tends to give short shrift to local concerns, and since most of us will not be packing suitcases to head over to the Middle East anytime soon, it seems the most telling ambassadors of what the Arab peoples truly value, what they want and where they are heading can be gleaned from the cinema the produce. Orientation: A New Arab Cinema, a timely film series that begins on August 24 at New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center offers us a glimpse of what is on the minds of, at least the filmmakers who bravely use their cameras to capture the zeitgeist of their own times.

With so much attention to the Arab Spring, a secondary focus on the emerging cinemas throughout the Arab world has been renewed. New filmmakers, often educated outside the region and well aware of contemporary international film styles, have begun to create a new Arab cinema that fearlessly engages in a dialogue with their respective societies, broaching subjects unthinkable even a decade ago. Among the most important forces in this cinematic renaissance has been the Dubai International Film Festival, which offers a number of programs to develop and support new talents. The Film Society will present  a series of recent feature films and shorts, all supported by DIFF, as an introduction to the new film movements emerging in the Arab world. Ranging from purely domestic subjects to humanistic tales to the struggles highlighted in the clashes between tradition and the new radical boldness, these films have much to tell us, and will do so through August 29. Almost all the films have significant European co-production partners, particularly France, UK, Netherlands and Switzerland. For more information on the series and the specific films, please visit: www.filmlinc.com

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